5.9/10
567
16 user 14 critic

The Substance of Fire (1996)

R | | Drama | 14 March 1997 (USA)
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1:40 | Trailer

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Publishing magnate refuses to publish a book by his son's male lover so the kids buy out their father and run it themselves!

Director:

Daniel J. Sullivan

Writers:

Jon Robin Baitz (play), Jon Robin Baitz (screenplay)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Goldwyn ... Aaron Geldhart
Benjamin Ungar Benjamin Ungar ... Young Isaac Geldhart
Timothy Hutton ... Martin Geldhart
Tom McDermott ... Old Printer
Sarah Jessica Parker ... Sarah Geldhart
George Morfogen George Morfogen ... Otto the printer
Ron Rifkin ... Isaac Geldhart
Lee Grant ... Cora Cahn
Andrew Pang ... Mr. Otani jr
Edmund Ikeda Edmund Ikeda ... Mr. Otani sr
Elizabeth Franz ... Miss Barzakian
Gil Bellows ... Val Chenard
Eric Bogosian ... Gene Byck
Ronny Graham ... Louis Foukold
John Sullivan John Sullivan ... Stewart
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Storyline

Isaac Geldhart is a Holocaust survivor who, overcome by grief at the recent death of his wife, seems determined to run his publishing firm into the ground by printing books that have no hope of financial success. His son Aaron, who also works at the company, grows frustrated with Isaac's emotional decline and attempts to take over the firm. The resulting crisis involves Isaac's other two children, his daughter Sarah and his dying son Martin. Written by Jesse Garon <grifter@primenet.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Doing What Is Right... Could Cost Him Everything.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 March 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A tűz melege See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$56,221, 16 March 1997, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$56,221, 16 March 1997
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Miramax See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of Viola Davis. See more »

Quotes

Issac Geldheart: You think I'm going to publish some trashy novel by some slicko hipster?
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User Reviews

Not as good or as important or as meaningful as it thinks it is
16 March 2002 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Isaac runs his publishing and continues despite the death of his wife. His company specialises in heavy subject matter about the Nazi's etc. However these don't sell well and Issac's insistence on perfection risks ruining the company. His son Arron sees this and brings in his brother Martin and sister Sarah to force their father to listen. However Isaac is forced out and starts another company – however with time it is obvious that Isaac is not fully competent to look after himself. Despite his own ill health Martin helps him to avoid court and losing everything.

Some films just shout worthy at you – this is a character driven piece about families etc, it's another worthy Miramax drama that, like Isaac's books, is lovely to look at and looks very serious and worthy. Unfortunately the story just goes along with nowhere to go and no points to make. We don't learn anything about the characters beyond the surface and they often seem to be stereotypes – the Jewish businessman father, the money motivated son, the bubbly daughter, the calm at-one-with-nature son etc. When the film does end, you feel like it should have been moving or involving, but instead it was slightly dull and uninvolving.

The performances are mixed, although it's a strong cast. Rifkin is good as the father, Isaac. However his character is not explained and his feelings never explored – instead we get a plot about mental competency. Goldwin is good as Arron, and Parker is good as bubbly (what else) Sarah. Hutton is poor as Martin, lecturing pupils by getting them to stare at trees, making meaningful sacrifice etc. His character is too calm and empty. The same could be said of Gil Bellows, although his character is smaller. Eric Bogosian makes a small cameo.

The problem with the cast is the same as with the film – there are too many scenes where they sit around talking, exchanging glances, Hutton says something semi-profound in a calm voice, the score comes up and we're all suppose to think something magical has happened. However this does not make a film worthy – even if it thinks it is.

I had great hopes for this film. I watched it twice in case I was missing something in this masterpiece. However hard the film tries it appears to have nothing to say and nowhere interesting to go. Dull and uninspired.


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